It is upon us again, the jamboree that is the Great Indian Election.
India became independent in 1947 and a republic in 1950 post the British rule. When they left they planted a seed of communal disharmony which has flourished and become a full fledged tangle of poison ivy, rampantly growing strong. Their divide and rule policy has been honed to a fine art by the Neta’s (Leaders) of India. The stratagem of the British is classic in its universal applicability and its stretch over time. What worked then for “the RAJ” can and does today also work for “a RAJ”.
Every single party today has a manifesto which either talks of secularism or communal divisiveness in either instances mention of religion is a must. Case in point the three major ones; The BJP ( Bharatiya Janata Party & its allies who constitute the assorted Sena’s, Parishad’s and Dal’s ), The Congress (NCP and assorted parties with India and Nationalist in their names who call themselves Secular- read supporting the minorities) & The Communists (The rest of the world has forsaken this “ism” but we in West Bengal and Kerala keep it alive and kicking; all their factions may they be the Marxists, the Leninists or even the Maoist). Now these are just three major factions and within them they have multiple sub factions and each of their sub factions have sub- sub factions…Need we say more? The polarization is complete.
The sheer number of candidates in each constituency also makes the process of choice quite ridiculous. There is little to distinguish between any of the candidates save the name of the party and their election symbols. Over the last two elections a slight transparency has set in with the election comission wanting each candidate to declare her/his combined family assets. This act of the commission brought out some amazingly funny facts.Case in point, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi -The grand daughter-in-law of the first Prime minister of the country, the doyen of the party in power for ages does not even own a car & is just worth a paltry Rs.20-30 million. She in comparison to the rest of the lot is actually dirt poor. That’s what her declaration states. My heart almost did bleed for her with the hand moving towards the wallet to alleviate her from her poverty. When she screams in Italiano Hindi "Gareebi Hataaaaoo" we know whose now.
An almost quiet election.
Factually speaking this has also been one of the quietest elections in recent times. There are almost no rallies nor do you see candidates asking for votes. As a voter or the public, this is the absolute limit; I like to be wooed and liked to be made to feel special. Now, was talking to the political "expert" of my locality, Madhu Pandey and he told me that the candidates of this constituency may not even come here. Am I expected to vote for some person I may not even get to see? If they don’t come even during the election campaigning, where will they be when their term begins? Now if I don’t see a candidate how will I know about him? Madhubhai looked at me strangely, from which planet are you, Go online.
Go Online for more fun:
The Buzzword is online everywhere and that’s the place today I am expected to go to find out about my candidate. A slew of websites have sprung up with “Know your Candidate” kind of taglines. However progress oriented I am, if I still insist on wanting to see the person who would get my vote in the flesh once, is that too much? Madhubhai looked up at the blazing afternoon sun and remarked; "Do you actually expect the poor candidate with just a few paltry crores to his name to also woo you. Who do you think you are - Dhirubhai Ambani ?"
Well without further ado I go online. This information platform is certainly good, no taking away from its utility. Know your candidate is a link I select and when I click on the constituency, I am lost. Is this for real, has this site not been updated? Then I find that I have been de-limited and put into some other constituency in the redrawing. After a lot of struggle, I arrive at the correct place to be given a chart of the references of the candidates. 27 in all listed. First tab I select is for candidate elimination and click "criminal cases pending". 25 names pop upfrom the 27 candidates standing, those who have criminal cases pending on them. Whew, this makes my job easier I think, looking at the names & profiles of the candidates left. To my horror, first is a 87 year old Municipal school teacher - a Gandhian. One who can barely see or hear going by the shining hearing aid in his ear and his thick soda bottle glasses. Plus he is severely arthritic but in his public achievements is written he has had a sterling career in Municipal education and retired 29 years ago. The other is the local butcher by profession and thankfully all he has killed are animals. He is 4th standard pass and can barely sign his name. He promises uninterrupted power and water to his constituency. For crissakes, I am in Mumbai, the commercial hub of the country, not even in some boondocks rural hamlet and here is a candidate assuring me something that I take as a given. I have been taking too much for granted, is the message being sent out with this promise of his.
The Comedy of the Election Plank:
How can I blame the poor butcher whose symbol is also the meat cleaver to promise me something else? This whole election 2009 has no clear agenda to be tackled nationwide for any single party.
The BJP is fielding Mr. L.K.Advani – The Charioteer of Ayodhya as the head of their party for PM and he is in a quandary whether to support the vitriolic Varun Gandhi and his ranting or keep a tab on his marginal minority support. His rhetoric on Hindutva is sounding so very stale now. In times of recession his resorting to the development plank would be nothing short of committing political suicide. He like any other cheated old man is either rambling or yelling while frothing at the mouth.
Dr. Manmohan Singh is facing the biggest battle from his own allies. To whom then would he even go and talk about a national agenda, though he is the best qualified man for a financial crisis; Well, he goes overseas and captivates the G20.
The Left parties under Prakash Karat are still suffering from a severe hangover of the nuclear treatise signed despite their opposition and have gone ballistic in their ravings.
The real issues plaguing India are Recession, National Security, Infrastructure, Education & Healthcare,Climatic change, while even in the developed states we have farmers committing suicides and famine deaths. But is anyone mentioning these strongly? We even lack basic necessities like water and power in many places. So we are back to where we were in 1947 - on the "Bijli-Pani" agenda and attacking the opposition with slander. No wonder my butcher candidate is talking this line. He is more clued in than I am, by the looks of it.
The comedy has begun:
The leaders of respective parties in and around the capital of the country or their respective states are making the regular noises. Lalu is wanting to learn how to drive a road roller after trains now. Varun Gandhi on his part is also taking lessons from my candidate the Butcher to sever Muslim arms, and rather painfully at that. Mamta Bannerji for once has quit her Macro ranting and has gone into a Nano silence. Sharad Pawar has started the music for musical chairs even before the game has begun . The Karat’s of the world are meeting and shaking hands with the Patnaiks of Orissa. Chiranjeevi in his first electoral fray is ambitious enough to talk a fourth front with a disgruntled Amar Singh, who is not the darling in his party anymore, his plate of cream has been snatched away, and he can’t even run to the principal to complain. Mr. Mulayam Singh has just released a Talibanisque manifesto and the crème de le crème crowd of the Bacchans and the Rupee Billionaire candidate from south Mumbai Mr. Abu Azmi have egg on their faces. Jaya Bacchan is suddenly finding it more politically correct to sign films rather than being filmed in political rallies & explain her party manifesto in public. Sanjay Dutt decided to extend his Munnabhai comedy into a "stand up" act. He was adviced to legally "sit down". Do I laugh out loud? Here is a guy who is arrested under TADA for anti-national activities, served a prison term. He is so pure of heart that it is his fervent wish to do social service for his brethren, and that too in Lucknow, a place one doubts whether he had ever visited before this aborted candidature. But whatever role he may play in election 2009, you must go out and vote.
Dot Hai to Hot Hai : Please Vote
Everyone is expected to vote. You don’t have a voice or the right to protest if you don’t cast your vote. One can buy this logic but is that all there is to it?
How exactly should the voting happen? First people should turn up to vote and not go on summer vacations or extended weekend holidays. So we have an ad campaign called “Dot Hai to Hot Hai”. For a second when I heard it, I was under the impression it is a campaign for TB innoculation. Then I realize its intended thrust , that being for increasing voter attendance. This is by creating an aspiration amongst youth to be cool to show the blue ink dot on your finger, a visible sign that one has cast his vote. Wow, the ad guys are geniuses. Okay I listen to them and go to vote, Do I have my passport and visa to enter the booth, in other words my election card. How many people have one issued to them at all? Millions of voters who may not have one will have to have a valid government endorsed photo identity to carry to their booth to be allowed to cast their vote. This is only after their names feature in the voters list.We are not new to magical omissions. To be fair the websites online without exception are very informative on these guidelines.
Having gathered all the documentary support to being eligible to vote who do I go and vote for now?
Who am I ultimately voting for?
Selection when there are 20+ candidates in the fray is rarely a first choice situation. For thinking men it is more a process of "selection by elimination", and yet there shall be a mass that is seduced with money and promises which will result in one of the party representatives winning by a landslide. Look at the further comedy as to what can happen, should I just happen to vote for an independent candidate who goes on to win. I have voted for him because I did not want to vote for party A , party B, party C or party D. But the joke is on me.
Before I know it party B and D have joined hands and A is supporting C from the outside. The Independent I have voted for becomes a prize horse who has to be auctioned. He is the "object-d-art" and the "auctioneer" all rolled into one. He jumps in with the highest bid and joins the coalition of B & D.
Like a free market competitive economy that theoretically at its final stage evolves to the point of an absolute monopoly (the progress of the multiple to the singular) Indian Democracy too has evolved to a sublime level. Here the key is not "the/a" party anymore but the absolute independent candidate who has won his seat; the ultimate last common denominator in this plethora of confusion of hung elections; the traded horse and the horse trader.
The circus has certainly come to town. In the days to come we shall see various vaudeville acts on a mammoth scale. We are the worlds largest democracy after all.